I’m always looking around on forums and social media, trying to find bands and artists that are trying something new and interesting. When I first heard Arkentype, it was via a playthrough that Simen Sandnes had uploaded. It was rhythmically insane- Simen was pulling all stops, using insane polyrhythms and limb interdependence and rhythmic displacement to play some truly mind-bogglingly complex stuff. I had the fortune to chat with Simen about his musical history, his drumming, as well as his production and music tech background as well.
Tell me about your musical background. How did you first start playing drums? What bands did you grow up playing along to and listening to?
Well, it all started when I was 10, I think. My older sister had a friend who was playing drums who I really looked up to, so because of that I wanted to play drums. I took, like, 1 drum lesson with him and he took me to my first ever concert with a local band called Grand Lux which his brother in law was the drummer for. I was also really into KISS and Metallica at that time and really just wanted to learn to play those songs. I got my first drum kit, a Pearl Target set, and was probably interested for a month before I lost interest. I played a lot of soccer at that time and that took up most of my time.
So I kind of quit playing after learning how to play “Love Gun” by Kiss, and then focused 100% on playing soccer. I was even on the national team for my age when I was 14, so I took it really serious and was top 3 goal keepers in Norway in my age group. So I basically didn’t play drums from when I was 10 to 16, even though I had a kit. I played some occasionally here and there, but I didn’t evolve anything drum wise for those 6 years. I could still only play “Love Gun”, and “Smoke on the Water”. So that’s why I usually say that I started playing drums when I was 16, as that’s the time I gave up soccer and started taking drums more seriously.
My big influences at that time were Nightwish, Slipknot, Avenged Sevenfold and August Burns Red. I tried to play their songs, but I would say I failed miserably. I have seen some covers I did back then, and they are horrible. I was such a bad drummer. The thing was that I skipped learning all the basics, and went straight to practice double pedal at that point. So my foundation is still kind of shaky, and I still have to go back and fix stuff I should have learned when I first started out at 10.
Your band, Arkentype, was formed while you were in college at the University of Agder. Tell me about Arkentype: how it formed, and what your goal is with your music.
I was called up by a singer named Martin Bjerke, who I had been sharing stages with in the local scene with my current death metal band Timewaves. He asked me if I wanted to form a studio project with him and another guitarist, Simen Handeland. I was keen, and we started writing stuff and recording on demos Simen already had made for his solo project. When we were done with the first song, we kind of figured out that this was «too good» to just be a studio project for fun, and that we should go for it.
I then contacted Kjetil Hallaråker (bass), who I knew from school, and the school studio kind of became our base. In the middle of the recording process of the album, Martin had to quit, as he got tied with other projects (7 Days in Alaska, a band which I actually later joined as a session drummer). We asked Kevin Augestad, who I also knew from sharing stages around the local scene. He joined, wrote lyrics and melodies to 7 songs in 2 days, and recorded them all over a weekend.
The entire album actually got written and recorded in about 1 month. This was because Daniel Bergstrand, who was gonna mix it, had to get the project within that time, as he was booked for many months after that. It was intense and we basically didn’t sleep for 3 weeks. I gained, like, 7kg as we just ate shit food and was sitting in front of the computer writing music all day and night. Simen left the band after our first tour as he didnt feel touring and band life was for him, and wanted to do more studio work (producer and mixing) which he is amazing at. I then went to tour with VOLA and did a lot of different projects, so the entire band was kind of put on hold for a period of time. When we wanted to start again, we had a new guitarist in place, but then Kevin left as he wanted to go a different direction with his music. After that we got put on hold for a bit more, and the guitarist we had went to study in the US, so we had to find a new guitarist again.
I am rarely out drinking, but the one time I was I met Øystein at our Music College pub in the city center. Øystein also is a dude who is never out, so it was a huge coincidence that we ran into each other. I knew Øystein a bit from the university, but had never really talked. We started talking and he then told me he was into prog and all of that stuff. I first asked him to play guitar on my bachelor exam, which he agreed to do. Øystein was then a easy choice to ask to be a permanent member of the band. For vocalist, we asked Kjetil Lund who was a close friend of Kjetil Hallaråker (bass) and I knew him from playing with different bands in the local scene. We then decided that we really wanted to have a keyboard player, and asked Johan Bakken, who is an incredible jazz player to join. He grew up listening to a lot of prog stuff, but had never really played it, and was keen on exploring a different type of music and use of keys. So, in, 2018 we were back again after a two year break, and started writing. “Rosetta” became the first song we wrote together, and it set a new sound for the band.
Also fun fact: all of us either have a Bachelors degree or Masters in music from the same University, so we are now really a band that comes from Universitetet i Agder.
Another fun fact: Baard Kolstad from Leprous also went to that University, and the entire band Rendezvous Point was also formed there – Kjetil Hallaråker (bass) is also the brother of Rendezvous Point guitarist.
One of my favorite aspects of Arkentype’s music is the fun you all have with interesting and unusual rhythms. Tell us one of your hardest songs to play, and why it’s so challenging.
Oh man, tell me about it. They are all so hard in their own way. I am biased but I really don’t think a lot of people know how hard the Arkentype songs are on drums. They seem kind of easy to some degree. I mean they are not Leprous kind of hard, but they’re hard in a very different way. I really look forward to seeing the first full Arkentype drum cover one day, as it has not yet been done. (Except from when Jay Postones from TesseracT played one of our songs on his stream). I have ‘always’ been good at playing intricate stuff with my feet, as the only thing I focused on when I went serious with drums was playing double pedal. So a lot of our songs are affected by that. Take both “Rosetta” and “Time Collapse”, which have these crazy intricate breakdowns. They are indeed hard and I can’t seem to remember that “Rosetta” breakdown without my sheets, but playing wise it didn’t take me too long to get it around. I still struggle with it. I actually started learning two days before I recorded it.
Then you have ‘Drowning’, which has some cool foot patterns going between 16th subdivision and triplet. I do it all with one foot, which can be quite challenging. Also, the linear groove before the synth solo after first chorus is a pretty hard one if you are not familiar with linear grooves.
Bridges’ main riff has this insane syncopated quasi-linear groove which is pretty cool. One of the bars took me, like, 4 hours to learn, as it starts on the last 16th note of the bar, and makes that feels like «one» before it resolves and lands on the real one.
Our newest single “Arbiter’s Call” is probably the «easiest» of our songs, but if you are not familiar with off beat triplets (which I have been practicing MY ASS OFF on) you are gonna have a bad time.
A lot of our songs is affected by my love for displacing rhythms, and making intricate stuff between my hand and feet. So yeah, they are all hard songs in many ways, as there is a lot of details, which, by themselves, are really hard to do. Just having the foot speed for “Drowning” is something that takes a long time to build up.
Fun fact: “Time Collapse” breakdown is actually based of a part in Matt Chamberlains’ (drummer for Pearl jam and many more) solo song “Cheeky” – which has this tribal drum part. Demo name for my breakdown was «the cheeky breakdown» and I wrote it as a whole before we put it into “Time Collapse”. I sent him the songs, and he wrote me back that it was amazing, and glad we had been inspired by his music.
Matt Chamberlain – Cheeky: at 0:52.
Apart from playing drums in Arkentype, you also are the producer. What does that entail?
These days I don’t do that much producing as I used to do. I was working a lot as a recording engineer, recording others, and doing videos for a lot of people. Now I have as much work playing just drums that I can outsource the producer role to someone else, as ultimately I just want to play drums.
That being said I now also work as a technical supervisor for a company called Need Music. Need Music delivers musical entertainment for the corporate event business, and I make sure that the technical aspects of all our shows goes well. I also perform a lot here and do what people will call “party gigs”.
Last year you shared a song called ‘Jude’ from your solo project. Tell us about that! Should we be expecting a record?
Yes, “Jude” was a way for me to force myself in to spending more time doing other stuff than metal. As I am mostly a metal drummer I don’t get hired for gigs like that, which of course makes sense. So I decided to make my own project with songs to improve my drumming and musicality outside metal. I do really, really want to make an album, and was actually planning on releasing an EP around this time, but as I went to study for a semester in L.A where I just focused on practicing drums and nothing else, the entire project got postponed. But hopefully I’ll be able to have something out this year.
New fun fact, the reason its called Jude is because its heavily inspired by Richard Spaven’s “Law”. I thought it would be fun to call it Jude, as those two together becomes «Jude Law» who is one of my favorite actors.
Tell us about your recording studio, Terrabitt Productions.
Well, Simen Handeland (former Arkentype guitarist) and I started Terrabitt Productions together back in 2016 I think. We had a studio together, and we were kind of going all in on making affordable recordings with videos for local artists. Unfortunately, that only lasted for about 6 months or so as I went on tours all the time, and Simen lived 2.5 hours by car away from the studio. I have kept the name for my current studio as it sounds better than “I record from my parents basement”. Haha, not really the case, but it’s been a name that has stuck with me and resembles everything I do outside playing drums: Videos, photos, mixing, recording, etc.
Fun fact (again): My official business name (VAT) is Terrabitt Music Simen Sandnes, and was a name my dad came up with as I am really into computers and was doing a lot of computer services at the time. I actually made the company because I had this business idea of helping elders installing iPads/computers and learning them how to use it. But that summer I got to many gigs which I didn’t see coming, so I had to lay the idea off.
As a drum teacher, what is the best advice you could give up-and-coming drummers?
Man, 100% learn all the basics. Play your ass of to Billie Jean, and listen to all sorts of music. I still regret on not focusing enough on all of that stuff. It comes back and bites my ass basically every time I play drums. Get all of the easy stuff down, then learn the more complicated stuff.
And if you dig, get into fusion. I don’t like the genre too well, but its amazing for becoming a good drummer.
You’ve been able to do some pretty fantastic things, playing with various bands and festivals, and working as a drum tech for Mike Portnoy and Haken. What else is on your bucket list? Who are your dream collaborators? Who would you love to jam with that you haven’t already?
Yes man, I have been rather fortunate. Been able to learn from the best and make a lot of good friends. I would really like to play drums for Rammstein. They are my favorite band. They have it all. Great songs, great performances, great acting, great artistic vision. I really just want to lay it down, and have fun like they do. On my realistic bucket list, it would be to do a tour with Arkentype, supporting Periphery or TesseracT. I just recently ticked off one, and that was to play with the Norwegian band Shining, which I have been a huge fan of since 2010. They are great.
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Lots of unfamiliar names there. Really liked ‘Jude’.